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Students protest nutrition regulations

By Paige Sheffield
Staff Writer

Recently, the number of students and teachers protesting the school nutrition regulations that Michelle Obama is overseeing has increased and remarks have become more sarcastic and bitter. Students are unhappy with not only the quality of food they are receiving but also the quantity. The portions are small and the items unrecognizable at times.

Why are the regulations so strict and narrow-minded, and why does Michelle Obama have a say in what our children should be eating at school? Is this enforcement positive or negative, too quick or timely?

Many Republicans and school cafeteria workers are opposed to the nutritional changes that are being enforced in public schools nationwide. According to the Huffington Post, most individuals support healthier food choices but believe the enforcements are too quick and too strict.

Businesses are struggling to reinvent their recipes to create healthier foods that can be sold in schools. Snack foods can only contain so many grams of sugar, salt and fat in order to be sold in vending machines and at concession stands, which is expensive to the businesses that make and sell the snack foods. Salt contents are also proposed to drop to a minimum by 2017.

Schools, along with businesses, are also suffering from the nutrition regulations because schools are not allowed to sell many concession stand items that bring in a substantial amount of money for the schools. Students are also throwing away a good portion of the food they are receiving at lunch. One school employee quoted in a Huffington Post article stated that the trashcans were eating healthier than the students were.

Yes, healthy lunch items are necessary in schools, but if I could not tell what was on my plate, the trash cans at my school would be pretty healthy too. I think it is a positive move to incorporate healthier food items in school lunches; however, the changes are too abrupt and strict for the students to adjust. The students are unfamiliar with many of the choices they are provided with and are unsatisfied with the portions they are receiving.

Many students rush to school without eating breakfast, have a full day of classes, get little food on their lunch plates and do not eat half of it due to strange looks and tastes. The students then go perform in an extracurricular activity for the rest of the day with little food in their stomachs to keep them active. Is this what nutritionists call healthy?

According to the Huffington Post, high school athletes can require up to 5,000 calories a day to perform efficiently. Nutritionists and Michelle Obama, however, have limited the calories in school lunches to fewer than 900 a day, and they are still dropping with each added regulation. When are the regulations enough- when children start fainting during school because they are not receiving enough energy to keep them awake and alert?

The other issue at hand with these new school nutrition regulations is what if this is the only meal some students receive all day? How can these students possibly make it through a busy day with fewer than 900 calories in their systems, and that is only if the students are eating their entire lunches, which most of them are not.

What if some students do not need to eat healthier at school? I understand Michelle Obama’s movement to reduce the number of obese Americans, but not every American child is obese. Not every child needs food restrictions or a reduced calorie intake every day. And no two children have the same physical makeup. One student may need to drink eight glasses of water per day where another student may only require three. Some students need more vegetables than others do and some may need a little bit more sugar.

So why do nutritionists get to make a decision that affects all children as if they were all identical or all unhealthy and obese? Why was Michelle Obama given the OK to oversee these regulations and make decisions for every child in the nation when she herself is not a professional nutritionist or pediatrician?

I think it is up to parents to adequately care for their own children and for schools to teach about good nutrition and to provide options, not mandates. If students are shown healthy ways to eat and are encouraged to do so and led by example, I believe they will make healthier choices. But forcing people to adapt to sudden lifestyle changes is not going to accomplish anything and could possibly lead to more unhealthy choices than healthy ones.